Wrongo and Ms. Right made it to Florida, and found his sisters doing well. We took our annual roundabout path to the Sunshine State, stopping first in Gettysburg, PA to visit Ms. Right’s sister. We drove slowly through parts of the Gettysburg battlefield on our way out of town.
When we drive south through Virginia, we always think about the penultimate battles of the Civil War. That is particularly true in and around Richmond.
We passed Civil War battle sites like Fredericksburg, where Chancellorsville was fought. And Spotsylvania. And Cold Harbor, where Grant lost to Lee in a battle that prolonged the war for another year. On June 2nd, the armies were arrayed on a seven-mile front. Grant was poised for a major assault on Lee’s right flank to cut off the Confederates from Richmond, but had to delay the fight for a day. Then they lost a bloody battle to an undermanned Confederate army. Grant later said:
“I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made… no advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained.”
It is a tragedy that the Civil War is still living history in America. On to cartoons.
Cohen switched sides, and the GOP was pissed:
Trump didn’t like Cohen’s testimony, but was totally OK with Kim’s denial about Warmbier:
After the Kim summit, Trump now regrets what he said about McCain in Vietnam:
US Secretary of State Pompeo visited North Korea (NK) to further the agenda President Trump and Chairmen Kim had agreed upon in Singapore. The visit did not go well. As Bloomberg reports, there were issues from the start:
As US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touched down in Pyongyang at 10:54 a.m. on Friday, he had few details of his schedule in the North Korean capital — even which hotel he and his staff would stay in.
Pompeo didn’t stay at either of the hotels where he thought he’d be. The North Koreans took him, his staff and the six journalists traveling with the delegation to a gated guesthouse on the outskirts of the capital.
It was the start of a confused 27 hour visit, including a pair of banquets that the secretary and his staff appeared to dread for their length, and the daunting number of courses presented by unfailingly polite waiters. And a meeting with Kim Jong Un never happened, despite strenuous efforts by Pompeo’s staff.
More from Bloomberg:
The lack of US control clearly rankled Pompeo. A former military officer accustomed to short, focused meetings, he was made to sit through multi-course meals with Kim and his staff, as waiters brought plate after plate of food — foie gras, turkey, pea soup, boiled oak mushrooms, kimchi, watermelon and ice cream, plus a drink branded “American Cola.”
By the morning of his second day, Pompeo had enough. Instead of the elaborate breakfast prepared for him, he ate toast and slices of processed cheese.
The specifics of what happened behind closed doors remain unclear, but there was a clear difference of opinion about the results of the brief meetings:
As he was leaving, Pompeo told reporters the conversations were “productive and in good faith.” Hours later, North Korean state media issued a statement that did not mention him by name but called the demands he presented “gangster-like.”
One North Korea watcher, Duyeon Kim, Senior Fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum and a columnist for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, had this tweet describing Pompeo’s and the Trump administration’s failure to understand even the basics of its joint Singapore communique with Kim Jong Un:
Duyeon Kim thinks that Pompeo and the Administration have the cart before the horse on the path to denuclearization.
In another tweet in her thread, Duyeon Kim says that NK sees denuclearization as part of a package that happens only after the military threat the US poses is removed, in other words, after items #1 and #2 above are negotiated. She makes the point that NK’s reaction to the Pompeo visit reaffirms that its priorities remain in that order.
Confirming her viewpoint, the statement released by the NK Ministry of the Foreign Affairs said in part:
The U.S. side never mentioned the issue of establishing a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, which is essential for defusing tension and preventing a war…
Let’s take a close look at the Singapore Joint Statement signed by Trump and Kim. It included the following: (emphasis by Wrongo)
The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
The United States and DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
[3a] to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and [3b], The DPRK commit to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
As far as we know, Pompeo didn’t talk about item #1, which would include the opening of embassies and economic engagement. He did not talk about item #2, i.e. a peace treaty. He also did not talk about Item #3a, the “security guarantees to the DPRK”. The only item he talked about was 3b, the last item on the list.
Pompeo came to Pyongyang and tried to go all gangster on Kim by asking for details about NK’s nuclear program, and its plans to abandon it. But NK wanted to talk about embassies and diplomatic relations.
The scorecard after Singapore: Kim 1, Trump 0
The scorecard after Pompeo’s visit: Kim 1, Trump 0
60% of public school children in the state of Arizona today are minorities. That complicates racial integration because there aren’t enough white kids to go around.
Stringer helpfully explained what happens when there aren’t enough white kids:
And when you look at that 60% number for public school students, just carry that forward 10 or 15 years. It’s going to change the demographic voting base of this state…..Immigration is politically destabilizing.
He says 60% of the kids are “minorities”, but the math says they are the majority. Maybe he’s using the “nonwhites are 3/5ths of a person” rule.
On to cartoons. It was difficult to know if Singapore was real, or a reality show:
Kim and Trump agreed on one thing:
Kim debriefed the team back home:
The big thing we have to fear:
Sessions fails bible study. The Boss wasn’t amused:
Sessions asks excellent question in bible study. Gets correct answer:
California’s referendum on whether to break into three states isn’t necessary:
Haze caused by smoke from a wildfire, Wind River Range, WY – 2018 photo by UtahPictures
Their handshake made history. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in met each other at the border, then walked hand in hand into South Korea for a meeting between countries still technically at war.
Whether they can declare an end to the war will be the subject of more negotiations and trust-building over the next few months, perhaps years. They did sign an accord that commits them to the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
This is either a huge step forward, or it is another case of false hope for a peace that has eluded the two Koreas for 65 years. Either way, it is an unprecedented diplomatic initiative between the two Koreas that could reduce global tensions.
South Korea’s peace offensive with the North has taken the US’s threat of military confrontation against North Korea off the table, unless the peace discussions should fail. Their preemptive diplomacy has left the US with no option but to move to the negotiating table without insisting that North Korea relinquish its nuclear weapons as a precondition. Is Trump behind this strategy? Historians will tell us some time in the future.
Strategically, North Korea looks like it is willing to work toward peace. They are in a win-win situation. If sanctions are eased, and peace talks move incrementally to a successful conclusion, a process of socio-economic rebirth in the North (a Kim Jong-un priority) can begin.
If Trump can’t agree with Kim Jong-un, we will find ourselves at odds with our South Korean ally. In that case, China might walk away from its sanctions against the North, blaming the US for not making progress in the face of the offer by Kim Jong-un to renounce his nuclear weapons.
South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in needs to find a middle ground between his cunning enemy to the North and his impulsive ally in the US. And no one should expect that Kim will capitulate on Trump’s key demand of total and immediate nuclear disarmament.
That’s the biggest problem. South Korea’s president favors an “action for action” strategy in which the North takes steps to dismantle its nuclear arsenal, and is rewarded for each move with economic benefits and security guarantees.
South Korean officials said that the entire process could take about two years.
But Trump’s national security team has insisted that North Korea scrap its weapons programs before any relief from the sanctions can be granted. And they say that “substantial dismantlement” should be completed much more quickly, perhaps in six months.
Moon’s position is to offer economic benefits and security guarantees incrementally, based on one small agreement after another, until both sides are comfortable. In short, his plan is: Be sensible. No one needs to be humiliated. No one has to win. No one has to lose. Deal with issues one by one. Don’t refuse to talk about anything at all. Talk. That’s what sensible people do.
No one knows where this goes. The two Koreas have struck similar agreements in the past. For example, in 1991, Pyongyang and Seoul promised to end the Korean War, but never did. And in 2005, North Korea and five other countries — including the US and South Korea — struck a deal to end Pyongyang’s nuclear program in exchange for economic aid. That deal fell through.
President Moon has acknowledged that there is a limit to what the two Koreas can agree on without American involvement:
Peace on the Korean Peninsula cannot be achieved by agreements between South and North Korea alone…It has to have American endorsement.
But, nobody knows how the Trump wild card will play out.
But today’s Saturday. For now, let’s bask in a little hope. It’s spring, and buds and flowers abound. The fields of Wrong have bluebirds in two separate nest boxes sitting on eggs. We’ve over-seeded the whole 3 acres of grass to keep our world green and weed-free. Time to brew up a cup of Red Rooster Coffee’s4 & 20 French Roast that the roaster says is dark and intense, full of complexity, with lots of spice and chocolate.
Now settle back, and listen to Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring”, performed here by the Sydney Camerata Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Luke Gilmour, in 2011. Copland was awarded the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Music for this work. Here it is performed by a 13-piece orchestra, which Copland scored for the eponymous ballet, choreographed by Martha Graham. Wrongo prefers the chamber version to the full orchestra version:
Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.
(The northeast is digging out from two nor’easters, with another possible on Monday or Tuesday. The Wrong family will return from FL into the middle of all that on Sunday. Sunday Cartoon Blogging will be published on Monday, March 12th)
The Daily Escape:
Harbin Opera House, winter. Harbin, China – 2015 photo by Iwan Baan
Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un have stopped trading insults and seem to be willing to meet face-to-face, sometime in May. No sitting American president has ever met a North Korean leader, and Trump has repeatedly vowed that he would not commit the error of his predecessors: Being drawn into a protracted negotiation in which North Korea extracted concessions from the US, but held on to key elements of its nuclear program.
The setup is this: Trump says “they are only talking because we threatened them.” Kim says “they are only talking because we have nukes.”
Both leaders bring their unique orthodoxy to the negotiating table.
It’s pretty clear that South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, has been doing a lot of work behind the scenes to help bring this about. It is unclear whether it has been with, or without, the blessing of Washington.
We know for sure that Mike Pence had nothing to do with it.
In Wrongo’s experience, the South Koreans are very skillful negotiators, and Trump must expect that the North Koreans are as well. In particular, the North Koreans have proved to be quite skillful in the past at subverting the very deals that they have agreed to and signed with the West.
Is Kim Jong-un really willing to give up his nuclear program for a deal from a man whose proven to be an unreliable negotiating partner with his allies, much less his adversaries? If something seems too good to be true, then it probably isn’t. If talks fail, both will have made their going-in position, that the other side can’t be trusted, justify their desire for a belligerent show of force going forward. They may both think there is nothing to lose by meeting.
If Trump can somehow defuse the threat from North Korea, he should get all of the credit that this achievement deserves. But, it really seems that these two are unlikely to achieve very much. Still, only the most cynical would say we shouldn’t “give peace a chance”, no matter how slim the odds of success may be.
So, there’s a calming diplomatic note at the end of the week. Time to continue the soothing for the weekend. To help with that, grind up some Panama Hacienda La Esmeralda coffee beans ($45/8 oz.) from Portland, OR-based Heart Roasters. Then brew a cup, noticing its notes of orange, vanilla, honey, and jasmine. With Heart’s Coffee, the company says it is easy to get the brewed coffee’s tasting notes. Soon, you’ll be saying things like, “I really taste the vanilla notes”.
Now, settle back in a comfy chair and listen to Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”, performed by Karl Richter in 1969 on the 1766 Riepp organ at Ottobeuren Monastery, Germany. You will notice that Richter is playing from memory. An assistant is there to pull out the stops, as the piece requires too much with hands and feet to also pull stops without interrupting the music. You should watch the video simply to see Richter’s footwork:
Some may know the music as the opening title sequence from the 1975 movie, “Rollerball”. The film is set in 2018. The world is governed by global corporations, with entities such as the Energy Corporation, a global energy monopoly based in Houston. The corporations control access to all transport, luxury, housing, communication, and food. Rollerball is a game, and Rollerball teams represent cities, and are owned by the global corporations. The Energy Corporation, describes Rollerball as having a “distinct social purpose”: To show the futility of individual effort.
Think you see some parallels to the real 2018?
Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.
-15° sunrise through Hollow Rock, Grand Portage, MN. The sun lines up perfectly only twice a year – 2018 photo by Tuckolson.
Sunday brought a Super Bowl victory by the Eagles, as Wrongo predicted. The week begins with Mr. Market in charge of our financial destiny after the Dow dropped 666 points last Friday. Adding 200,000 new jobs and higher wages, possibly because of minimum wage rate increases in 18 states, should have been good news. But Mr. Market thinks wage increases mean wage inflation, and that weakens corporate profits, which cannot be tolerated. So we must be punished.
This week, the focus shifts to the Winter Olympics in South Korea (SK). And, the Trumpets plan to ratchet up their rhetoric about North Korea (NK). The Guardian reports that VP Mike Pence is leading the US delegation, and he plans a war of words on NK’s participation:
Vice-president Mike Pence will stop North Korea “hijacking” the Winter Olympics, an aide said on Sunday, by using his own presence at the Games to remind the world “everything the North Koreans do at the Olympics is a charade to cover up the fact that they are the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet”.
Axios quoted another WH source:
North Korea wants to make this about cute photo ops. The vice-president is countering North Korea’s desire to control the message…We’re not going to cede two weeks of world media to North Korea.
So, no dice on cooperation between NK and SK. But, the reality is much, much worse. The NYT points toward signs that a war with North Korea may be coming. They say that the White House is frustrated by the Pentagon’s reluctance to provide Trump with options for a military strike against NK. HR McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, believes that for Trump’s warnings to NK to be credible, the US must have better tactical military plans, including a “bloody nose” option. From the NYT: (emphasis by Wrongo)
But the Pentagon, they say, is worried that the White House is moving too hastily toward military action on the Korean Peninsula that could escalate catastrophically. Giving the president too many options, the officials said, could increase the odds that he will act.
Think about it: Our military leaders think that if they work up more tactical plans for striking NK, Trump will want to use one of them. And they think that would be a strategic mistake, since it will trigger a shooting war with NK that could kill millions on the Korean peninsula. It would almost certainly also threaten Japan, and draw in China as well.
Connecting the dots includes the disclosure that the White House decided not to nominate Victor D. Cha, a Korea expert, as ambassador to SK. Mr. Cha thinks he was sidelined because he warned the administration against a bloody nose military strike.
NSC Asia director Matthew Pottinger told Korea experts that a limited strike on the North ‘might help in the midterm elections’…
Fifield identifies Hankyoreh as “left-wing”, and says that it is the only news outlet currently reporting this. So, it could be nonsense, but it fits the messaging that the Trumpets are spooling out about NK. People keep wondering when Trump will reach rock bottom. Starting a war partially because you want to win the midterm elections would be it.
This sounds like something we need to know MUCH more about, and very quickly. The motives behind a preemptive strike transcend teaching Kim Jong Un a lesson. Trump might be thinking it would ward off Mueller’s possible charges, or the possibility of impeachment, if a Democratic Congress was seated in January 2019.
The quote may be fake news, but it’s not implausible that Trump’s administration could be thinking this. And it’s not clear which is more terrifying, that this thought is in the air in DC, or that some in SK are scared enough to make this up.
We need a serious discussion about preemptive war with NK. We are already living with the consequences of the unnecessary war George W. Bush started in Iraq, and we will pay for that for the rest of our lives.
We can’t let Trump start another.
Wake up, America! Time to find out what the truth is about giving NK a bloody nose. To help you wake up, here is My Morning Jacket with their 2008 tune, “I’m Amazed”:
I’m amazed the lack of evolution
I’m amazed at the lack of faith
I’m amazed at the love we’re rejecting
I’m amazed what we accept in its place
Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here
Lake Waramaug, Litchfield County CT. It is the second largest natural lake in the state.
Our problems with North Korea (NK), and the impossible negotiating position we have with them, brings to mind Israel’s relationship with Palestine. Both NK and Palestine:
Had their borders drawn by other powers after WWII
Had been invaded many times by their neighbors
And they have fought wars with them ever since
Are anti-US, and anti-Israel
Have a large benefactor that props them up economically. Iran in the case of the Palestinians, and China in the case of NK
And both countries appear unwilling to negotiate with their sworn enemies towards a peaceful solution. We officially ended the Korean War in 1953. The parties to the Armistice tried to negotiate a withdrawal of foreign forces from the peninsula and settle the question of who would rule a reunited Korea. Talks took place in 1954, but broke down over how to hold fair elections for a unified government.
The Armistice specified that no new weapons would be introduced on the peninsula, but in 1957, the US informed NK that it would no longer abide by that part of the Armistice agreement. In January 1958, the US deployed nuclear missiles capable of reaching Moscow and Beijing, in South Korea.
We kept them there until 1991, and tried to reintroduce them in 2013, but South Korea refused. NK conducted its first underground nuclear test in 2006.
NK has very close relationships with many Arab countries. From the Diplomat:
North Korea…actively supported Arab countries in their military operations against Israel. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War…North Korean pilots staffed Egyptian MIG-21s…During the 1980s, North Korea shifted [to] arms…sales to Israel’s enemies in the Middle East. The DPRK exported missiles to Iran, Syria, and Libya and assisted both Syria and Iran in their attempts to develop nuclear weapon capabilities.
NK’s relations with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) began in 1966. NK today recognizes the sovereignty of Palestine over all territory held by Israel, except the Golan Heights, which NK considers Syrian Territory. The Diplomat says that NK helped Hezbollah build underground tunnels in Lebanon.
Al-monitor reports that NK also cooperates closely with Iran. Israel believes that Iranian scientists were present at most of NK’s nuclear tests. Iran’s Shahab missiles were developed with the assistance of NK, and are based on the NK Nodong missile.
There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it…Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.
We are stuck in the moment, and we can’t get out of it, just like Israel and Palestine.
Our history with NK tells them that we are not trustworthy. Barack Obama replaced direct engagement with pressure tactics, called “strategic patience.” He also rejected negotiation with NK without a prior commitment to denuclearization.
And here we are. We won’t talk to them unless they give up the bomb. They already have the bomb, so they won’t be giving it up. We can’t move against them without huge damage to Japan and South Korea. Would we sacrifice either country to save the US homeland from a NK nuclear-tipped missile?
What should we do now? Will we accept the fact that NK is a nuclear power? Will we continue to rely on sanctions?
Would we commit to a no-first-strike policy that might reduce tensions with NK?
Would we agree to stop the provocative war games?
What will the Trump administration do to avoid nuclear war?
Nobody knows. Here is U2, live in Boston in 2001 with their Grammy-winning “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” from their 2000 album, “All That You Can’t Leave Behind”:
As you sing along, remember the song was written to persuade someone that suicide wasn’t the answer.
You’ve got to get yourself together You’ve got stuck in a moment And now you can’t get out of it Don’t say that later will be better…
Now you’re stuck in a moment And you can’t get out of it
(Wrongo is ceasing labor for Labor Day weekend. Blogging will resume on Tuesday, 9/5. Enjoy the fruits of your labor!)
The Daily Escape:
Harbin Opera House, Harbin, China – 2015 photo by Hufton Crow. Harbin is China’s eighth-most populous city. It is located in the extreme northeast of China.
Feeling anxious? Seeing too much of the devastation in Houston?
Amazing what it takes to push the Trumpet off the front pages for a couple of days. The clean-up and rebuild will take years, the scale of the losses are beyond imagining.
To top that, Lil’ Kim fired a missile across Japan, and onto the front pages. Appropriately, it wasn’t important enough to move Harvey out of our consciousness, but it showed we need to pay more attention to North Korea (NK). You probably think of NK as a backward place, but according to the Economist, its 25 million citizens are surprisingly well-wired:
Perhaps half of all urban households now own a Chinese-made “Notel”, a portable media player. Over 3m have mobile-phone subscriptions, with NK-branded smartphones like the Pyongyang and the Arirang. South Korean NGOs that smuggle foreign films and TV shows into the North on USBs receive text messages from their contacts there with requests for specific titles (South Korean soaps and Hollywood dramas are popular).
The NK government abetted the communications revolution. In 2008, it developed a 3G network. Today, there are more sanctioned NK mobile phones than illegal Chinese ones. Many use them to conduct business on the black market, by checking prices elsewhere in the country. Notels can be bought for around $50 on the black market, sold in state-run shops.
Since Kim Jong Un came to power, signal jammers for mobile phones have been set up along the border with China. These are powerful enough to ruin cell service for Chinese living on the other side. North Koreans are banned from calling abroad.
Most North Koreans do not have access to the internet, and the few who are allowed to go online are limited to a state-run intranet with 28 mediated websites. The Economist says that NK censorship tools have allowed the regime to automate surveillance. For example, they have the ability to make unsanctioned media files on phones and Notels unreadable. TraceViewer is installed by default on NK phones. It takes random screenshots of users’ devices, so big brother is always watching.
Kim Jong-Un’s calculation is that technology allows it to gain more control than it loses. It dictates what kinds of handsets North Koreans use; it can shut off the mobile network whenever necessary. The appeal to the regime is that it knows it can’t keep all information out, so it is better to monitor it.
Makes Kim seem like a rational actor. Let’s hope so.
And let’s try to forget about this past week for a few hours, as we start the Labor Day weekend. The thought of Labor Day always reminds Wrongo of the lyric from the Jackson Browne tune, “The Loadout”:
They’re the first to come and the last to leave,
Workin’ for that minimum wage
“The Loadout” was recorded live in Maryland at a show in August, 1977. Browne had been working on the idea with his band, but they didn’t have an arrangement they liked. When Browne did three encores, they were out of material, but still wanted to play. Russ Kunkel (the drummer) suggested they play the new song and see what happened. The resulting performance was good enough to make the album, “Running on Empty”.
It was the first time the band played the song, and they created a medley with it, segueing into “Stay (Just a Little Bit Longer)”, with Rosemary Butler on vocals along with David Lindley doing the falsetto.
After high-profile candidates lost decisively in the last two elections…the party now finds itself in unprecedented territory for the 2018 ballot: with no major candidate to run. Democratic leaders haven’t yet lined up a substantial name to represent the party and its message despite months of trying.
Ann Richards, elected in 1990, was the last Texas Democratic governor. And now, no major Dem candidate will run for governor. This is despite a booming Hispanic population and Democratic dominance in the state’s largest cities.
Democrats have expanded their advantage in California and New York. Combined, these states gave Clinton a 6 million vote edge, more than twice her national margin. But those two states elect only 4% of the Senate.
We once thought that there was an “Obama coalition” that would only grow because of demographics: Left-leaning populations were growing, America was becoming less white, and this alone would guarantee Democrat majorities well into the future. This idea has failed. Is it time for the DNC establishment to accept the awful truth that they are no longer a national party?
The Cook Political Report says that even if Democrats won every single 2018 House and Senate race for seats in districts that Hillary Clinton won, or that Trump won by less than 3 percentage points, they would still fall short of the House majority and lose five Senate seats. Some permanent majority. Time for a few new Democrats to lead.
On to cartoons. Many people pointed out that there were some similarities between Trump and Kim:
Strategic thinking, Trump-style:
Uncle Rex tells America a bedtime story:
Trump said that his North Korea comments were similar to a few other guys:
Foxconn gets $3 billion in tax breaks in exchange for building a $10 billion factory in Wisconsin. It will take 20 years for the state to break even: